WICHITA, Kan.—East will be better on either side of the ball in 2012, but it needs drastic improvements to become a contender in the city league.
Coach: Brian Byers (24-20 in five seasons at East)
2011 Recap: Finished 2-6, 2-5 in GWAL, missed playoffs.
Returning Starters: 5 Offense, 4 Defense
Key Returning Players: Deonta Thomas (RB/LB), Griffen Nuss (OL), Gilmar Barrera-Macal (OL/DL), Michael Flynn (OL/DL), Teryn Brown (OL), JJ Normore (WR), Garrett Gates (WR), Elijah Shelite (LB)
2012 District: Heights (@ Northwest), @ Derby, Southeast (@ Northwest)
The Blue Aces return five starters from a team that struggled offensively in 2011. It averaged just 3.9 yards per carry and 15.3 points per game. However, Deonta Thomas returns at running back, which will provide a punch in the backfield that needs a solid rusher. What’s more, four guys return from last year’s starting squad on the offensive line. One more year under their belt means this line is better than in 2011, which means bigger holes for Thomas to run through.
Also, receivers JJ Normore and Garrett Gates, both starters in 2011, return for the 2012 campaign. East’s passing game was its strong suit in 2011 as it racked up 1,446 yards on the season. Although impressive, that number will need to be significantly higher in 2012 to make the impact East needs to make.
This team gained just 856 yards on the ground last season, an average of 95.1 yards per game. Balanced offenses historically work well in the bigger classes of Kansas, so East’s run game will need to improve in step with the pass game in order for the East offense to be successful.
In 2011, the East defense ranked in the bottom half of the city league in many statistical categories. The old saying in football is ‘to be successful, run the ball and stop the run.’ The Blue Aces ranked seventh in total yards allowed in the league with 3,145. This number absolutely needs to get lower in 2012 for the Blue Aces to experience any kind of success.
With four returning players on defense, this season could be a challenge for an already struggling defensive squad. East was outscored on average 35-15. It will be a challenge, but not impossible for East to turn its defense around.
Half of its defensive line returns in Galmar Barrera-Macal and Michael Flynn. Those two will anchor and lead the line to a hopefully much improved season. In the line backing corps, Deonta Thomas and Elijah Shelite will lead their teammates in improving themselves.
ODDS AND ENDS:
East gets its season started with North at Carpenter Stadium, a game that will be competitive for both sides. It will then face off against West, a team on the rise. East has a chance to start the season 2-0. However, it’s not how you start, its how you finish the season that determines if a team makes the playoffs.
East’s district consists of 6A state runner-up Heights, Derby, the team Heights defeated to make the state championship game and Southeast. It’s not impossible the East will make the playoffs, but it will have to work in order to get there.